Slow starts have been a common theme for Maryland so far this season. But more often than not, it’s not how you start, but how you finish.
Despite nine turnovers and shooting 3-12 from three in the first 17 minutes of the contest, the Terps used an 11-0 run in the final 2:44 of the first half to pull away from Oakland as they coasted to an 80-50 victory.
“It was great. We just kept guarding, we kept guarding,” said head coach Mark Turgeon of the run. “Then we just made a couple shots. We got the ball to Stix (Jalen Smith), did the turn and face jumper, the left hook. Then Wiggs (Aaron Wiggins) shot right before half.”
The run started with Smith’s first bucket of the game on a turn-around jumper. Then Anthony Cowan converted two free throws. After the Terps garnered another stop, Cowan hit Darryl Morsell in transition for a lay-up. Oakland tried to wind the clock down and get to halftime, but a missed jumper led to an open transition three for Wiggins, who calmly sank it to send the Terps to the half on a high note.
Maryland’s offense got going to end the half, but it was its defense that was the most promising. The Terps held the Golden Grizzlies to 37 percent shooting from the field while forcing nine turnovers in the first half. They held Oakland starting center Brad Bechtling to six points on 3-10 shooting throughout the game.
“We were doubling the post big-big. We practiced it a little bit before Rhode Island but didn’t use it,” Turgeon said. “Run and jump was good for us today, the 1-3-1 was good for us the other game. We have multiple defenses that really help us and kind of change the tempo of the game.”
The second half started the same way the first ended. Maryland used defensive stops to get out in transition, which led to easy buckets. By the 12:25 mark of the second half, the Terps were up 25 and the game was out of reach.
The commander of the second half run was the junior, Morsell. He scored the first four points of the second half on lay-ups, then hit his first two three-pointers of the season. The Baltimore native also converted a transition layup after faking a behind the back pass that got the crowd, and the bench on their feet.
“It’s just instinct, it just happened like that,” said Morsell of his crafty move. “That’s probably the first time I did that since like high school. It definitely got the crowd into it. It definitely put a smile on Eric’s (Ayala) face. Eric enjoyed it.”
Collectively, Maryland’s offense was much better in the second half. They shot an impressive 55 percent from the field, limiting themselves to four turnovers, while scoring 45 points. In total, it was a balanced scoring effort. Morsell led with 14 while, Cowan had 11 and Wiggins finished with 10. Even junior reserve Reese Mona pitched in with a career high five points after draining jumpers on consecutive touches.
“It was so fun. If you couldn’t tell, the players on the bench were going absolutely insane,” said Wiggins of Mona’s shooting. “We told him to shoot it again the next time he caught the ball. He wasn’t even open.”
“I’m shocked Jalen didn’t get a tech. Jalen was all the way under the hoop once he (Mona) hit his second three,” Morsell said. “I’m like ‘Jalen get back, get back’. But it was good.”
Maryland’s win moves them to 3-0 on the season. The next test comes Tuesday as they will take on Fairfield at home at 8:30 p.m.
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